Skip to Content

Constant Phone Checkers Are Totally Strung Out

People who admit to relentless refreshing of e-mail and social media report far higher stress levels.
February 23, 2017

Do you check your phone when you wake up? Over breakfast? On the train? At your desk? In ... the bathroom? Of course you do—you’re a modern human being, a plugged-in, switched-on, ever-ready constant checker. And you’re probably totally stressed out, too.

The American Psychological Association has published findings from its most recent survey investigating our relationship with technology. And constant checkers who have convinced themselves that the act of refreshing e-mail and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and news alerts is totally fine may find that it makes for uncomfortable reading.

The APA’s surveys have people score their stress levels on a 0 to 10 scale—0 being “little or no stress” and 10 being “a great deal of stress.” This survey also asked its 3,511 respondents to describe how often they checked their phone. You can probably tell what’s coming.

People who claimed to check their phones regularly, but not constantly, scored an average of 4.4. Those who constantly checked their device nudged that number up to 5.3. And people who admitted to constantly checking their work e-mail even during days off bumped the figure up to 6.0.

These are, of course, self-reported numbers on a relatively arbitrary scale. But the trend is clear: people who check their phone more regularly also report higher stress levels.

The report contains some other disconcerting nuggets. Forty-five percent of parents say that they feel a sense of disconnection from their families, even when they’re sitting in the same room, because of technology. Forty-two percent of constant checkers reckon that political and cultural discussions on social media—if "discussions" is the right word—cause them stress. You get the idea.

So, what to do? Well, the survey also reveals that 65 percent of respondents think that some time away from their gadgets—a so-called “digital detox”—might help. But only 28 percent of those people have ever bothered to try it.

You could instead invest in a little technology to track your changing mood and take the edge off the stress, safe in the knowledge that the survey didn’t cover how much stress is caused by stress-busting technologies. Or you could stop checking your work e-mail on the weekend. Or in the bathroom.

(Read more: Stress in America: Coping with Change, “The Electric Mood-Control Acid Test,” “This Phone App Knows If You’re Depressed,” “Wrist Sensor Tells You How Stressed Out You Are”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.